Lori Tobias

 

Innkeeper by vocation, actor by avocation

Coaster Theatre's Sue Neuer talks about what it's like to perform in a community where everybody really does know your name

I met Sue Neuer some years ago at the front desk of a favorite Cannon Beach hotel. She knew me as the writer frequently on the road for work. I knew her as the innkeeper who tried to accommodate my need for peace and quiet so I could work. It was only later, when she invited me to the Coaster Theatre for the evening’s performance, that I learned that while innkeeping might be Neuer’s day job, her passion is the theater.

On Friday, Neuer opens in her 18th role at the Coaster, starring as Myra Bruhl in Deathtrap, a comedy-thriller by Ira Levin that holds the record (four years) for the longest running play of its genre on Broadway. The play is about a down-and-out playwright who sees hope in a student’s script and devises plans to stage it as his own. “There are a lot of twists and turns,” said Neuer, who plays the playwright’s wife. “Several people die.”

Neuer and I sat down to talk about what it’s like to be an actor in a town where odds are most everybody really does know your name. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Cannon Beach actor Sue Neuer opens in “Deathtrap,” her 18th Coaster Theatre role, on Friday. Photo courtesy: Coaster Theatre Playhouse

How do you juggle community theater — auditions, learning lines, rehearsals, performances — and a full-time job?

Neuer: Fortunately, I’ve had employers who are supporters of me doing theater and I do my own schedule, so I do it around my rehearsal schedule. You have to carve out the time, when it comes to memorizing your lines. I am a procrastinator when it comes to doing that. I record all my lines and listen to them while I am in the car.

Are you recognized locally first as an actor or innkeeper?

I’m very actively involved in the community. I’ve lived here a while (11 years), so people know me for all sorts of reasons. I have tourists come up and say, “Oh, I saw you in this or that play.” But not a lot of locals support the theater. There are some regular patrons, but I would say the majority of people are tourists looking for something to do. We have some visitors who are season ticket holders and plan trips to Cannon Beach based on shows. That’s always fun. We have some guests who try to plan their trips to take in a show while they’re here. There are locals who have never stepped foot in the theater. They think it’s a movie theater. I don’t say we don’t get the local support, but it’s weird — you’re either into theater or you’re not. If you’re not familiar with what it is, you have to be introduced by other people.

How did you get involved in theater?

I was kind of a late bloomer. I didn’t do it in high school. I started in college when I took an acting class. I like doing musicals, because I love to sing and dance. It’s only in the last five years or so I started doing plays. It’s just something I do in my spare time. I enjoy it. I’ve made great friends. Theater is just in my blood.

What do you like about your role in Deathtrap?

It’s been extremely challenging for me as an actor. I go through a lot of arcs. My character is kind of sickly. I get progressively sicker and I’ve also been drinking, so I have to be a bit tipsy.

What makes that challenging?

It’s hard enough just playing one character, but I feel I have to play a couple because of the changes I go through.

How many plays do you do a year?

It depends. Sometimes you audition and you don’t get cast. I’ve gone a year without doing a show. The maximum I like to do is two. This year I am doing three. I was in Odd Couple, then Deathtrap and then …

What’s your favorite Coaster Theatre memory?

Oh, man. Most of them are backstage, behind the scenes no one gets to see. When I played the Wardrobe in Beauty and the Beast, I had to walk sideways because the costume is wide. It’s a chest of drawers. I had to get from one side to the other. So I went to go down the stairs — there’s only three — and I was on the bottom and I fell and I couldn’t get back up. I didn’t hurt myself, but it was hilarious. I was just sort of dangling in the air. I was like, “Help.” The Beast was watching me, and he and one of the other characters had to help me up. I wish we had a videotape because it was hilarious.

Not just anyone can play a piece of household furniture, but in 2014 Sue Neuer (left) appeared in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” at Coaster Theatre. With her are Amanda Payne (center) and Ellen Blankenship. Photo by: George Vetter

What are the pros and cons about theater in a small town?

One of the problems with small-town theaters is they have to pick shows they know they have the talent for. The reason I am in the show now is because hardly anyone showed up to audition. It’s hard getting men and young people to come out. We can’t do shows that have any ethnicity. We don’t have the diversity of population like they have in the cities. We could never do West Side Story, for example.

What about it brings you joy?

I live a block from the theater, so I don’t have a commute time. I am lucky that way. It’s just a darling theater. We’re really lucky to have it here.

Next, you are going to play the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, opening in November?

I am. I am so excited. It’s ironic because I love to sing and I don’t get to sing, but I’m excited.

Is it hard to play witchy?

No, I’ve been typecast. I like playing bitchy parts. I don’t consider myself a bitch in real life, so it’s fun to play one on stage.

*

Deathtrap runs weekends through Oct. 27. For details on times, days and ticket prices, check here.

In Newport, 30 and going strong

The visionary Performing Arts Center at Nye Beach helped galvanize the region's growth. On Saturday it celebrates 30 years, and looks ahead

I discovered Newport in 1993, a fluke visit on our way home from Portland to the southern reaches of the state. I stayed in Nye Beach at a hotel that no longer exists, just a few steps from the Performing Arts Center, still fairly new at just five years old. Nye Beach was by then a bit faded, salty, sandy, rough around the edges, but perfect in that way, too. I must have seen the PAC back then, though I can’t say I recall it. But seven years later when we moved here, I recall thinking, worried as I was about the smallness of this town set between ocean and bay, that surely a thriving art scene spoke well for it.

Over the years, I attended plays, my first opera, the symphony, memorial services, fundraisers and the readings by David Odgen Stiers that even on the darkest, dreariest of nights added a touch of magic to the holiday season. Sometimes I went to the PAC not so much for the entertainment at hand, but as an excuse to cast aside the usual jeans and sweaters for a dress. Heels. Red lipstick. I have no doubt it was the PAC that got me through some of the grimmer, grayer, Coast-stormy winters.

Newport Performing Arts Center groundbreaking ceremony, 1987.

So yes, I’ve always appreciated the PAC, though I confess I can see now I’ve taken it for granted. But then I sat down to write about the upcoming 30th anniversary celebration. I talked with Catherine Rickbone, executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for Arts, and her army of volunteers; I talked with the people who were here when the PAC was a fond wish, a shimmering dream, albeit not particularly realistic.

Continues…

Glass shortage has blowers holding their breath

Coast artisans coping with a lack of cullet glass are trying solutions ranging from a raffle to all-night "cooking" to stay afloat during their busy season

On the Oregon Coast, creating a work of glass art is a bucket-list favorite, and there’s plenty of places to make that happen. But recent weeks have stressed some mom-and-pop glassblowing studios to the point of, well, a meltdown. It seems there’s just not enough glass to go around.

Robin and William Murphy, owners of the Oregon Coast Glassworks in Newport, ran into problems earlier this month when they tried to buy a new supply of “cullet” glass – furnace-ready recycled glass pellets that glassblowers turn into floats, bowls, and other art. There was “no glass anywhere available for purchase,” Robin Murphy said. Nor would there be any until November, they were told. The shortage seems to be the culmination of stricter environmental laws, which led to a cutback in suppliers, compounded most recently by heavy demands on an overseas supplier.

William Murphy begins creating a piece of glass art in his Oregon Glassworks studio in Newport. Photo by: Lori Tobias

The Murphys have launched a fundraising raffle – of a glass sea turtle crafted by William – to help finance a new furnace that will melt “batch,” a pelletized powder that is an alternative to cullet. It requires a natural gas furnace or what’s known in the industry as a “moly” (short for molybdenum) furnace – a piece of equipment that generally comes with a price tag ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. The Murphys have a less expensive wire-melt furnace, but it doesn’t get hot enough to melt batch.

“We’re the little kids on the block,” William Murphy said. “Our systems can only melt glass that has been turned into little pellets. Bigger companies can melt batch. Batch is a Betty Crocker cake mix – you have to add cake and temperature and time. Cullet is like a Lunchable. You just melt it and use it.”

Oregon Coast Glassworks isn’t the only small shop facing the shortage. The Edge Art Gallery in South Beach is also experiencing it, as is the Lincoln City Glass Center. One of the largest of the dozen or so glassblowers on the central and north Coast with 21 employees, the Glass Center does have a “moly” furnace, capable of melting batch or cullet. Owner and glass artist Kelly Howard prefers to use cullet, but she also has been unable to get any.

Continues…

Manzanita’s Dave Dillon curates Northwest film series

The former Hollywood liaison for the Navy screens regional films and leads monthly post-show discussions

Nosferatu, a 1922 classic horror film based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, might seem an unlikely start for a film series that prides itself on being all Pacific Northwest, all the time. The silent movie was the first offering, eight years ago, in the monthly Manzanita Film Series led by a local resident who has ties to another unlikely horror classic. More on that later.

Dave Dillon finds many of the films shown at the Hoffman Center for the Arts by searching the NW Film Center and paying attention to what other film festivals around the state are showing. “If it’s of, by and/or about the Pacific Northwest, we’re all for it,” he said. When he finds a film he likes, he pays the $100 screening fee and puts the film on the schedule.

Dave Dillon leads the film series at Manzanita’s Hoffman Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy: Hoffman Center for the Arts

“It’s just another little artistic cultural thing,” he said. “We get a good variety of locals, a bunch of steady customers. Twenty is a good crowd.”

The most popular evenings among local film fans are nights that showcase six or eight short films, Dillon said.

“They can be one minute, eight minutes, two. They can be features, documentaries, animated,” he said, adding that the biggest hits come from the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival in Portland. “From that they put together a DVD of eight to 12 shorts. When they bring that out, everybody loves it. It’s fascinating to see what filmmakers come up with showing off their passion.”

Continues…

Coast calendar: Second-look photos, author art, and a hootenanny

Calendar highlights include photos of subjects "entitled to reverence," Rick Bartow's sketches of famous writers, and a night of music and merriment

As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing photographers, pros who could take what I saw as a simple, even uninspiring, scene and render it into a work of pure art — often in the most fleeting of moments, or brutal circumstances. Those are the photos that make you want to take a second and third look, the photos that keep you returning over and over again.

That’s what juror and world-renowned artist Robert Adams looked for in selecting pictures for a new show, The Sacred, at the LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria. A total of 165 camera buffs submitted their work; 52 made the cut. Here’s how Adams described his choices:

“Clouds,” by Dennis Witner is one of 52 photos in “The Sacred” show at Astoria’s LightBox Photographic Gallery.

“The photographer Dorothea Lange said that she wanted to make pictures that are ‘second-lookers’ – pictures that reward repeated viewings. It has been my privilege to assemble an exhibition made up of such photographs. The pictures record what is ‘entitled to reverence,’ as the dictionary defines the word ‘sacred’ – times and places and people that point beyond themselves. We stand today in particular need of such testaments. I was asked to select a few of the photographs for ‘honorable mention,’ but this seems unnecessary. As is apparent, the photographers brought honor to themselves by first selflessly honoring their subjects.”

The show opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, and runs through Sept. 5.

The Coaster Theatre is promising a night of music and merriment at its Cannon Beach Hootenanny on Aug. 25. The evening of folk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll showcases local musicians: Adams & Costello, The Floating Glass Balls, Maggie & the Katz, and Thistle & Rose. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are $15 and can be purchased online, at the box office or by calling 503-436-1242.

Continues…

Connecting artists and visitors along 363 miles of coastline

So far, the inventory for the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail includes 125 works, including sculptures, murals and functional art, in 27 communities.

The Oregon Coast is a natural draw for artists, some of whom return the favor by creating a piece of public art. If you live nearby, it’s easy to find these public works, but vistors might never see them. Plans are afoot to change that, with the coast-wide, self-guided Oregon Coast Public Art Trail.

Marcus Hinz, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, came up with the idea while traveling the 363-mile coast.

“I would see public art in random places and wondered how anyone would ever find them,” Hinz said. “After a while, it dawned on me that one, there is a lot of public art on the Oregon Coast, and two, that our agency has never done a great job partnering with the coastal-art-culture community. The goal of this project is to help residents and visitors connect with artists, gain a deeper sense of place, and improve artists’ livelihoods.”

Georgia Gerber’s pair of Tufted Puffins roost near City Hall in Cannon Beach. Photo: Oregon Coast Visitors Association

He hopes it will also serve as a marketing tool, attracting tourists at times of the year when they wouldn’t normally visit.

What art will be featured on the trail hasn’t been decided. Kevan Ridgway, founding partner of tourism marketers Minds Aligned Group and a resident of Cannon Beach, has been charged with finding the pieces.

So far, he’s reached out to 27 communities along the coast and put together an inventory totaling about 125 works, including sculptures, murals and functional art, such as benches or trash cans. To be included on the trail, the art must be accessible by the public 24/7. But beyond that, the criteria are still being worked out. Ridgway is encouraging people with information about a
public art piece to email him at oregoncoastarttrail@gmail.com.

Continues…

Newport honors favorite sons David Ogden Stiers, Ernest Bloch

Upcoming on the Coast: a screening of Benedict Cumberbatch in "Hamlet" and an open house at an historic Coast Guart boathouse

The central Coast pays homage to two of its famous former citizens this month. As part of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts’ capital campaign program, plans are under way to change the name of the Performing Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre to the David Ogden Stiers Theatre.

A campaign is under way to rename a Newport theater after former resident David Ogden Stiers. Photo courtesy Newport Symphony Orchestra

In a press release, the arts council’s Executive Director Catherine Rickbone called the actor, known for his role as the pompous Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III in the 1970s TV show M*A*S*H, “an inspiration to several generations over his many years of involvement with OCCA and the PAC.” Stiers, 75, died March 3 of bladder cancer at his home in Newport.

Rickbone’s release continued to note that Stiers often said of the Performing Arts Center, “it so delights me to see the theater camps and dance recitals involving kids. They think they own this place, and of course they do!”

The renaming comes with $1.6 million in renovations that will include a new seating system, enhanced sound, lighting, and acoustics, and improved HVAC for the theater. It will be home to experimental theater, premiering original plays, literary readings, storytelling, piano performances, dance recitals, cabaret-style jazz ensembles, international musical events, and a broader youth theater. It will also enable simultaneous programming with the adjacent Alice Silverman Theatre. For more information, call Bonnie Prater at the OCCA office, 541-574-2655.

Continues…